There have been many great steam locomotive designs, and while certainly not the largest or most technologically advanced, in terms of production numbers and total influence on the railroad industry, the Consolidation (2-8-0) stands tall.
The Baldwin Locomotive Works was key in the development and growth of the Consolidation. Bachmann's Spectrum model was equally revolutionary on model railroads.
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First built in 1866, within ten years the 2-8-0 became a standard for freight trains in the United States and around the world. The locomotive remained the most popular freight engine well into the 20th Century. Built by the hundreds for export during WWI, the locomotives traveled around the world.
Although eventually superceded by faster and more efficient Mikados (2-8-2), Consolidations continued to serve until the last days of steam in yards, local freights, branch lines and shortlines world wide. They remain popular on excursion railroads today.
With tens of thousands to choose from, it's no surprise that many have been made in model form as well. From generic 2-8-0s to models of a specific prototype, just about any layout set in the steam era can use at least one of the models available to add realistic freight power to the roster. For more prototype history and a list of known models, see my latest locomotive profile.